Histadrut chair Ofer Eini at Labor Court_311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini threatened Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday with a general strike
over expected budget cuts that could cut workers’ pay.
request not be immediately complied with, we intend to use all possible means at
our disposal in order to protect the rights of the workers and prevent harm to
the public workers and retirees,” Eini wrote in a letter to Netanyahu and Lapid,
demanding that they immediately include him in budget negotiations.
budget proposal contains tough economic cuts that will hurt the economic
condition of the public workers and the retirees, a public struggling under a
heavy burden that includes the middle class as well as the lower class,” he
On Tuesday night, Lapid said he was prepared for “war” over the
, specifically saying he would reconsider “ancient agreements,” a
reference to the collective wage agreements signed by previous governments with
Responding during a speech at the Knesset to mark Herzl
Day, Netanyahu said he would not be cowed by strikes and promised to move
forward with economic reforms.
“Following the cellular and open skies
[reforms], next week we will bring reforms to cheapen private cars in Israel and
after that, will come a huge reform at the Israeli ports and then we will
cheapen a variety of products,” he said.“Let me stress: No strike will deter
us,” he continued. “It’s impossible to build a strong economy without increasing
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich decried Netanyahu’s
agenda, saying that today’s economic realities were far from Herzl’s vision of
free education and a strong welfare state.
“Yes, I know the worldview
that believes the state should be run like a business, and neglects the people,
and produces unbearable inequality among them, and sows discord between the
nation’s groups, and cuts more and more from the nation and sheds more and more
responsibility to its citizens,” she said. “It’s almost always accompanied by
pompous slogans and lofty rhetoric from those that carry it
Federation of Israeli Chambers Of Commerce President Uriel Lynn
slammed the Histadrut over the threats, saying, “apparently Eini has forgotten
that he represents organized labor and is not part of the elected bodies that
bear responsibility for the general public, to shape the economic program that
will determine the future of this country.”
“Eini forgets that according
to our democratic process, the ones with responsibility are the elected bodies:
the government and the Knesset,” Lynn said.
But the Histadrut was not the
only group pulling out knives to protect its interests.
On a tour of
Israel Aerospace Industries, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon spoke out
against cuts to the defense budgets.
“We live in the Middle East, the
world’s biggest playground for terror,” he said. “Every cut will directly harm,
due to complex constraints, the local industry that lives off defense
manufacturing and will lead to the closure of dozens of factories.”
estimated that cuts would lead to NIS 4 billion worth of security export losses.
“Irresponsible cuts to
the defense budget will harm Israel’s security and the livelihood of thousands
of families,” he added.
In Tel Aviv, leaders of various farming and
agricultural unions gathered for an emergency meeting to coordinate protests
against the plans to cancel the VAT exemption on fruits and
The Knesset Finance Committee decision to make permanent a
near-doubling of beer taxes (from NIS 2.15 to NIS 4.15 per liter) elicited the
ire of the Israel Manufacturer’s Association, which said the tax would unfairly
burden Israel’s local beer manufacturers and lead to a 10 percent drop in
consumption, worth some NIS 170 million.
“This is an absurd decision that
goes against the interests of the State of Israel,” said Itzik Tamir, who chairs
the association’s food branch, adding “the increased beer tax will only harm
thousands of workers in the Israeli beer industry, most of them in the
periphery, and encourage youth to consume cheap liquor.”
also failed to carve out an exemption for Israeli microbreweries, who said the
tax would decimate their businesses.
“Whenever there are changes, the
sectors that are hurt are going to try to fight for their benefits,” said Amir
Gil, a senior investment manager at the Psagot investment house.
in all, he says he’s optimistic, because in dealing with the budget deficit, “in
the long run, the government is doing the correct things.”